Last Sunday provided drivers with their only opportunity to reacquaint themselves with the Circuit de la Sarthe ahead of the world’s biggest motor race later this month. While the whims of the weather made this refresher course a little trickier than necessary, reigning double winner Benoît Tréluyer, along with Audi Sport team-mates André Lotterer and Marcel Fässler, was in relaxed mood.
Changeable track conditions, interrupted sessions and a busy programme to work through ensured that for some drivers Sunday’s Test Day was anything but a stroll in the park ahead of the 90th anniversary Le Mans 24 Hours on June 22/23. Perhaps the exception to that rule was Audi’s armada which, although not entirely unscathed by the day’s events, achieved all that it set out to in typically calm and methodical fashion.
“We have found what we came looking for,” states Benoît matter-of-factly. “We had a programme and followed it. During the morning, when it was raining and the racing line was wet, we made some adjustments for those quite specific conditions. Then in the afternoon, when the track was dry, we managed 48 laps that allowed us to complete our programme and learn new things. By the end it had been a productive day.”
Despite this being the scene of their consecutive Le Mans victories during the last two years, Benoît, André and Marcel were more focused on set-up than outright pace.
“In fact,” confirms the Frenchman, “each car worked on different and specific areas. One tested a qualifying set-up while another, for example, worked on aero loads. Due to the changing conditions it wasn’t an easy day, but the team is working like clockwork. Leena, our race engineer, reacted perfectly with all of the changes. I am really satisfied by the manner in which this test unfolded.”
It was also an opportunity to compare themselves with main rivals Toyota, even if initial practice on Wednesday 19 June will be the first proper assessment of where each team truly stands.
“It is really difficult to give an informed opinion,” underlines the reigning FIA World Endurance Champion and current points leader. “In any case we have achieved our entire planned programme. That was the target and everything looks good. All is working well. We still have some small adjustments to make but we are feeling relaxed rather than over-confident. That would be a mistake as Le Mans always punishes arrogance. The race is long, strategies differ and we should have a clearer view on Wednesday and Thursday next week.”
Loaded with fresh information, Benoît made a quick return trip to Paris before going on to the Vaucluse region and his adopted village of Gordes for a few days of rest. Then the pressure will begin to build…
“Personally,” he laughs, “I prefer the word power! We are in our little bubble with set objectives and a plan to follow. We remain focused on this. Pressure? We do everything we can to make sure it becomes foreign to us!”